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Held annually every October
Diverse attendees pack Episcopal cathedral
Milwaukee’s Episcopal cathedral was filled to near-capacity the evening of June 16 for an interfaith service of remembrance and hope in response to the fatal shooting of 49 people by a Muslim man at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl.
It was a time for people of many faiths, philosophies, lifestyles and ethnicities to come to come together in unity to grieve for the deceased while refusing to be divided or defined by hate. They shared scripture, prayer, reflection, healing and fellowship. The Milwaukee Children's Choir provided moving, uplifting choral song, while the tolling of All Saints' Cathedral's largest bell for each of the victims as their names were read was a poignant and personalized reminder of the loss.
The evening event was co-sponsored by the cathedral and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
A number of television stations covered the service, including Today's TMJ4, which did a detailed report. See it at: TMJ4.
After welcoming comments from the Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of the cathedral, and Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, several lay and ordained representatives of faiths offered scriptural readings, prayers and thoughts, including:
The Rev. Kevin Stewart, Missioner for Community Engagement for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, read the names of the 49 people who were killed in the Orlando nightclub. After each name was read, the cathedral's largest bell was tolled once. The Rev. Debra Trakel, an Episcopal priest and director of client services for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, offered a compelling personal reflection on the events in Orlando that challenged and inspired the crowd as the service drew toward an end.
Since its founding in 1970, the Interfaith Conference has consistently denounced hate crimes and any form of ethnic, racial or religious violence while striving to counter ignorance, prejudice, fear and hate. The mission of the Conference is to uphold the dignity of every person. It represents the regional leaders and adherents of 17 member denominations and faiths. It also works closely with nonmember faiths.
Statement Issued by Islamic Society of Milwaukee:
The Islamic Society of Milwaukee denounces the horrific acts of the Orlando shooter whose heinous crimes have nothing to do with our community or faith. The shooter’s ex-wife, father and others have described the shooter as being not religious and mentally unstable. This monstrous act must be condemned by all who value human life and dignity.
The ISM offers its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and prays for quick recovery for those who were injured. The Islamic Society of Milwaukee has always stood firm against all forms of violence by any group regardless of religious affiliation, creed, color, sexual orientation or any other characteristic.
We hold firm to the Islamic verse found in the Qur’an, the Muslim scripture, that equates the murder of one individual with the killing of all humanity. Our community vehemently refuses to be involuntarily represented by an immoral individual who ruthlessly took the lives of dozens of innocent people.
In the same week that we honored and mourned Muhammad Ali, who was inspired by the peace and common humanity found in the Muslim faith, we mourn victims of an individual who completely violated the most basic principle of Islam.
The ISM implores the Muslim community in Orlando, Florida and nationwide to step forward and donate blood. We also ask the Muslim community to reach out to the victims and their families and offer them assistance.
Interfaith staff member adds voice of faith to Water Commons "Confluence" gathering
She ended the event on a high note by reflecting on what had been said throughout the evening, by bringing people back to the question of where this effort goes from here, and by then sending people forward to take this work back into their communities.
The "Confluence" event unveiled Water Commons' 2016 Water City Agenda and its six initiatives. This plan was produced by a two-year effort in which over 1,300 people provided input in-person and online, in large gatherings and small groups, on the street with a mobile “water cycle” and in workshops. They helped shape a vision of Milwaukee as a true water city -- a city in which everyone would participate in the care and enjoyment of our waters. Water Commons believes that "everyone, everywhere has a vital role to play" and has intentionally reached out in urban and suburban areas to engage people of color, artists, indigenous peoples, faith groups and others.
Event on Islam draws 240 people
An energized crowd of 240 people from Mequon and other parts of the metro area listened, asked questions and applauded vigorously at an interfaith event on the evening of April 27 that was titled Exploring Islam: Addressing Difficult Questions. An interreligious conversation from Muslim, Christian and Jewish perspectives. Many lingered for refreshments and conversation aftewards.
Held at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon, the event was co-planned and co-sponsored by the church and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's Committee for Interfaith Understanding. The panelists were the Rev. Scott Hauser, Crossroads' senior pastor; Janan Najeeb, a founding member and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition; and Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shalom in Fox Point, the largest Jewish congregation in the Milwaukee area.
This was a follow-up to a similar event on Islam that the Interfaith Conference co-organized in February with the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN). For that event, we rented the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove and filled its 300 seats to capacity. Some latecomers had to be turned away.
These events are part of our continuing effort to counter hate, fear, prejudice and anxiety with interfaith education and personal contact that leads to understanding, tolerance and friendship.
This is a reminder that the 2016 Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture is this Sunday afternoon, April 10, at 3 p.m. in the downtown Public Library's Centennial Hall. The Interfaith Conference is involved in this free event, and our executive director is chairman of the planning committee, because the late Milwaukee mayor was one of our key founders in 1970. One of those pioneeers said in 2010 for our 40th anniversary that the Conference might not exist had it not been for his guidance and character.
Islamic Society of Milwaukee Condemns Brussels Attacks
In case you did not see it, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee -- one of 17 member faiths/denominations of the Interfaith Conference -- quickly issued a statement condemning the attacks in Belgium last week. People sometimes ask, "Why don't Muslims speak out against such attacks?" They have...and they do. It just isn't prominently and repeatedly reported in many news media. The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee has consistently opposed such violence while also speaking out against religious hate and intolerance directed at any denomination or faith. .
More than 100 people remained for a post-performance panel presentation organized by the Interfaith Conference at the Skylight Music Theatre's performance of the Gospel musical "Crowns" on March 13. Women from six different faiths who cover their heads for religious and/or cultural purposes talked about the reasons for doing so, how that affects them and the reactions they get from others.
Although we aren't doing another panel, you can still get a 30% discount for tickets to the remaining performances by calling the box office at 414-291-7800 or online at www.skylightmusictheatre.org and using the discount code INTERFAITH. There are 7:30 p.m. performances (Wednesday) March 23, (Thursday) March 24, (Friday) March 25 and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Saturday) March 26. The Skylight performs in Milwaukee's Third Ward in the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway.
Crowns is crafted around the tradition of African American women wearing elaborate hats to church services. The Skylight says, “In this jubilant Gospel musical, a teenager finds strength in a community of wise women who share powerful stories and songs connected to their magnificent church-going hats (aka Crowns).”
The Interfaith Conference and Calvary Baptist Church, the oldest African American Baptist Church in Milwaukee, co-sponsoring the talkback. The panelists on March 13 were from faith traditions where women cover their heads at religious services or for other religious or cultural purposes.
The panelists included:
Interfaith event on Islam draws capacity crowd to Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove
Many thanks to the speakers for providing an outstanding interfaith experience on Thursday night, February 18, at our event, "What do we really know about Islam? Answering the difficult questions."
The Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove has 299 seats in its theater/auditorium. Community interest was so strong that we reached that capacity and then handed out contingency flyers to latecomers in the lobby and parking lot, expressing our deep gratitude for their interest, explaining that there were no more seats and no standing area. The flyer also invited them to contact us, saying that we would assure them seating at a similar event that the Interfaith Conference is organizing with Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon on April 27, at the church.
It was an honor for the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network to organize this event and to share the speakers' wisdom and energy.
Our moderator was Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi. Our speakers and welcomers included:
Answering the Difficult Questions
2015 Annual Luncheon focuses
We drew 230 people of diverse faiths to the Interfaith Conference's 45th annual luncheon on Dec. 3, 2015 to hear immediate past NCAA Chapter President James H. Hall, Jr., talk on "Social Justice Challenges: How did we get here? How do we move forward?" Attendees engaged in lively dialogue at mixed-faith tables about possible solutions, followed by our presentation of four annual awards:
Frank Zeidler Award -- Jeanne Mantsch
Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award -- St. John Vianney S.W.E.A.T.
Nearly 500 adults and children of diverse faiths, cultures and races participate in 30th Annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk
People from dozens of congregations, schools and organizations brought 6,000 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force to McKinley Park, walked 2-mile or 5-mile routes and enjoyed lively music from the Salsabrosa Dance Company and the Mariachi Zamora band. Balloon hats, corn-husk crafts, a fun obstacle course and various donated snacks added to the afternoon's celebratory spirit.
A big thank you to St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Greendale, which collected an additional 9,000 pounds of nonperishable food at the church site for the CROP Walk,
In addition, Concordia University in Mequon collected 106 pounds of nonperishable food from students, staff and faculty as part of our CROP Hunger Walk effort.
AND...Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee collected more than 100 pounds of fresh produce at the lakefront walk site as part of a first-time effort to use the CROP Hunger Walk to improve the diets of food pantry clients by having people bring produce from their gardens or from the store. The Hunger Task Force distributed the produce. This was an extension of Tikkun Ha-Ir's success Surplus Harvest Milwaukee project and will be repeated for the 2016 Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk.
Dozens of volunteers from area schools and congregations helped make this year's walk a success.
Monetary donations and pledges are still being received, so we do not yet have a total.
Sikh Community joins Interfaith Conference
We have some great news. The Cabinet (board of directors) of the Interfaith Conference voted on July 17 to warmly welcome the Sikh Community and its Oak Creek and Brookfield temples as our newest faith, bringing to 17 the number of faiths and denominations that have formal membership at our board level. Sikhs have long participated in the planning and running of many of our events, and this
Let's welcome them by having a large Interfaith Conference turnout at their annual memorial Chardhi Kala run/walk on Saturday, August 1, 2015. It's free. There's entertainment, games and great food, whether you cheer or are able to do the run or the shorter walk. They would appreciate it if you would register in advance online at www.ck6k.org There will be on-site registration starting at 7 a.m. on the day of the event at the Oak Creek High School football field, 340 E. Puetz Rd.
Donations will be accepted to fund inclusive “American Dream” scholarships for 6 deserving youth from the metro Milwaukee area who exemplify the ideals that this nation was built upon and for a Memorial fund for building a structure in memory of the 6 lives lost in the tragic shooting at the Oak Creek Temple in 2012.
For more information, contact Rahul Dubey at (414) 949-9496 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Interfaith event at mosque in Brookfield draws large crowd for dialogue on prayer
Nearly 140 people heard representatives of 12 denominations and faiths give mini-presentations on the purpose of prayer and then broke into small groups for animated dialoguing on Sunday afternoon, May 3, at the newly opened mosque in Brookfield.
The free event included Middle Eastern food and tours of the mosque. It was hosted by the ISM Brookfield Mosque, organized by the Interfaith Conference's Committee for Interfaith Understanding and co-sponsored by the Brookfield Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN).
The theme was, "Interfaith Experience: Why do we pray? An exploration of the purpose and benefits of prayer."
This was a follow-up to a similar "Interfaith Experience" event the Interfaith Conference and BEGIN co-sponsored on Jan. 25th with the theme of "How do our faiths inspire us to treat the stranger?" at the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield. A third event is being planned for this fall.
Representatives of the following denominations and faiths gave four-minute presentations on prayer at the May 3rd event:
Baha’i – Michael Paik, Lake Country Baha’i community, Waukesha County
People of Faith United for Justice
About 700 people participated in the biennial People of Faith United for Justice advocacy day in Madison on April 29 to learn, discuss, pray and advocate together for social justice issues of importance to all the people of Wisconsin.
It was organized by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and six other organizations.
The people shared their values, priorities and concerns as the Legislature was working on the next two-year state budget, striving to ensure that their commitment to compassion and justice is reflected in that budget. Their focus was on:
Presentations and break-out sessions were held at Bethel Lutheran Church and First United Methodist Church in Madison near the State Capitol. After lunch, participants walked en masse around the Capitol and then visited the offices of their respective Senators and Assembly representatives.
The keynote speakers were:
** Hannah Rosenthal, CEO/President of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the U.S. State Department
** The Rev. Everett Mitchell, community relations director for UW-Madison and pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, who holds master's degrees in Christian ethics and social ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary.
Other co-organizers of the event included: Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin, Madison Area Urban Ministry, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Madison, Wisconsin Jewish Conference.
This was a remarkable luncheon, one that reached beyond staid, conventional program models.
Instead of having a keynote speaker, we had people get a taste of our highly successful Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program by having a half hour of moderated discussions at each table using an appreciative listening process that evokes deep sharing.
Instead of having faith groups and organizations purchase tables and sit with their own people, we dispersed people throughout the ballroom to achieve diversity at every table. People truly had personal, interfaith experiences that bridged differences and fostered understanding and friendship.
Dr. Rob Shelledy, Interfaith Conference Cabinet chair and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Social Justice Ministry Coordinator, was the emcee. Tonen O'Connor, resident priest emerita of the Milwaukee Zen Center, opened the luncheon with this reflection:
"I'm most appreciative of this opportunity to offer a reflection as the invocation before today's luncheon, and of course the first thing we should share is our gratitude for the food we are about to eat, and our thanks to all those who had a hand in its journey to our table. Food has deep spiritual meaning within all faith traditions, and it is in this spirit that we offer our thanks.
"We gather together today as people of faith with trust that the deep divisions in our society can be healed. Within Buddhism there is an understanding that self and other are in truth, one being, inextricably interrelated, and that all beings are equal participants in this universe. This is what I ask you to consider today. Let us pledge to eliminate those deeply divisive words, "us" and "them" and replace them with "we," and thus take a small step forward toward an end to racial disparity, racial distrust, religious conflict, riots, poverty and the death of children.
"May the word "we" rise in our hearts so that we will look upon others and see ourselves. Recently in Istanbul, Pope Francis prayed that we may "overcome misunderstandings, divisions and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace." The important word here is "credible." Lip service is not enough.
Please join me in a moment of silence within which we consecrate this meal to our determination to step past divisions and bring into being a credible "we.".........................................................................Thank you.
We also gave awards to two exceptional individuals and two highly commedable organizations.
2014 AWARD RECIPIENTS
Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award
Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award
Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award
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